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New Civic Type-R to cap big 2017 for Honda

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Honda Australia says keen pricing and benchmark performance will help it sell up to 200 examples of the new Civic Type-R a month when it arrives Down Under in September next year.

Orders are already rolling in for what will be Honda’s first Civic Type-R in more than five years in Australia, giving it a direct rival for the all-wheel drive Ford Focus RS and Volkswagen R, although like them the front-drive Type-R should undercut $50,000.

Asked this week if it will, Honda Australia director Stephen Collins said: “It’s still early, but certainly our desire is for that, so we’ll see.”

So revealed only in prototype form and currently undergoing Australian development testing, the new Type-R will have a tough time beating the Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport (known here as the limited-edition Golf GTI 30 Years edition), the S version of which has just set a new front-drive Nurburgring Nordschleife lap record of 7:47.19.

Collins said that like the new NSX, the Australian version will come with all possible options as standard, and the same engine tune as the European model.

“We’ll take a similar approach to the HSX. It’ll be a hamburger with the lot. We’ll bring the best version,” he said, adding that more local information will be released prior to launch.

Under the bonnet, expect a development of the current (Mk9) model’s 7000rpm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder delivering up to 250kW/440Nm via a six-speed manual transmission, which should see it lower its 0-100km/h time to 5.5 seconds and raise its top speed to as much as 280km/h.

The local Honda chief said the Type-R was already generating strong interest.

“My understanding is some customers have placed orders. A number of dealers are already holding a unofficial orders. We’re expecting that will gain momentum leading up to the third quarter [release].

“It will be very competitive in the hot-hatch segment and will attract the die-hards, the conquests and people who want the hottest hatch.”

Honda plans to sell in between 100 and 200 Type-Rs a month in Australia, said Collins, depending on pricing and UK supply.

“We don’t want it to be a fringe car you never see. We will have a customer order bank from launch. I want one as my daily driver.”

As for further Honda sports cars beyond the Civic Type-R and the new NSX supercar, the first example of which was delivered last week, Collins ruled out an Australian release for North America’s latest Civic Coupe and, for now, a Civic Type-R sedan.

He also said Honda Japan’s new S660 micro-sportster is not available for export and that he had no information on the widely speculated S2000 replacement.

“Type-R is hatch-only at this stage. Civic Coupe won’t come here; we’re happy with sedan and hatch. There’s nothing [sporting] on our radar beyond NSX and Type-R.”

That said, when asked whether Honda would expand its warmed-over RS badge beyond the Civic sedan — in which it accounts for 25 per cent of sales — to models like the Jazz, Collins responded with a “maybe”.

Mainstream Civic hatch and CR-V also to come

Honda expects the new Civic Type-R to raise awareness of the Civic range as a whole in Australia, where the new 10th-generation Civic five-door hatch on which it’s based arrives next April and both five- and seven-seat versions of the new CR-V go on sale mid-2017.

“Everyone’s aware of Civic; we need to make them aware there’s a new Civic and the Type-R will help,” said Collins.

“With the Honda Civic sedan laying really strong groundwork for our ‘One Civic’ plan, the addition of the hatch and performance Type-R will ensure our customers know the Honda Civic is well and truly back in the small car game.

“Not only that, but the all-new CR-V will arrive into one of the most important segments in the country. It will be one of the most eagerly anticipated launches of 2017.”

Honda hopes the two key new models and two new performance icons will help boost its total sales to 48,000 in 2017 – up from a planned 40,000 this year – with the Civic hatch joining last year’s 10th-generation sedan to find a combined forecast of 1500 monthly sales.

“You’ve got to be selling 1500 [small cars] or more a month and I think that’s where we want to be,” during a media briefing this week.

That sort of number would see the Civic surpass the HR-V and CR-V as Honda’s top-seller, but still positioned behind the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3, Hyundai i30/Elantra and Volkswagen Golf/Jetta overall in Australia’s dominant small-car sales segment.

With a similar model range, the new Thai-built Civic hatch should prove even more popular than the sedan, which has snared 4500 customers and almost 23 per cent of all private (non-business) small-car sales since it was launched here in July, ranking it number two in its segment.

“We’re not targeting number one, but we should be number three [in terms of private small-car sales]. We have to get back on the shopping lists of private small-car buyers,” said Collins.

“The momentum we’ve built in 2016 will continue into 2017 – you’ll see and hear more about Honda than ever before.”

To that end, beyond the NSX, Civic hatch and CR-V, Honda Australia is planning a further 10 new product releases in 2017 – although many of them will be special-editions.

“We are committed to ensuring that we give our customers consistent and fresh product updates across our portfolio throughout the year,” said Collins.

“The company is planning 10 other brand actions during 2017 to ensure that our vehicles keep pace with our customers’ lifestyles and needs.

“As part of this, we will continue with our limited-edition strategy, which provides customers with a compelling reason to buy Honda models equipped with the extra features they value.”